Forbes Magazine about TalTech „Open Source AVs: The Story Of AV Development In Estonia“
Rahul Razdan, Contributor, Advanced Mobility Institute at Florida Polytechnic University
A research team from the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) in Estonia took the challenge of building AV, and the result was the ISEAUTO shuttle that can also operate in snowy conditions !
TalTech is a leading polytechnic university in Estonia. In the world of technology, the area is best known for providing some of the key founders of Skype. Like many AV design teams, TalTech’s journey towards building an AV started with robotics competitions such as Robotex. In June 2017, an ambitious self-driving vehicle project was started with the goal to develop a low speed AV Shuttle for the university anniversary in September 2018.
"We invested in the project because we believed that developing AV technology was such a multifaceted challenge that every ambitious academic community at the university could contribute. We thought that TalTech had both smart people and novel ideas to participate," said TalTech rector Prof. Jaak Aaviksoo.
The project was a joint effort between Taltech and Silberauto Estonia, a distributor of automobiles. Silberauto focused on body design and mechanical assembly. Meanwhile, the TalTech team had the daunting task of providing the whole AV electronics and software subsystem. The team consisted of approximately 18 students working with dedicated faculty.
Due to time and cost constraints, the hardware components used were off-the-shelf (Velodyne LiDar, Standard PC with Nvidia graphics cards, Point Grey Cameras, etc). The key daunting challenge was the software system which had to be customized for the application and location. The only viable path was to start with a base consisting of open-source environments.
An investigation of open-source environments revealed four major candidates — Nvidia Drive , OpenPIlot, Baidu Apollo, and Autoware. Drive, OpenPilot, and Apollo were sponsored by commercial entities. Autoware was sponsored by a research group from Nagoya University in Japan.
When one chooses an open-source environment, the evaluation is not only the current functionality, but other important factors such as likely momentum of the community. In TalTech’s evaluation, Autoware was chosen based on completeness, independence (from particular automobiles or electronics hardware), and governance structure(company led vs independent foundation).
Using the open source strategy and with a small student team, the team built a solution in time for the Taltech anniversary. The performance characteristics were in line with other last mile solutions. Uniquely, the team was even able to demonstrate the operation of the shuttle in snow. Also, after the prototype launch, the demand for commercialization was very strong, so a company called AuVeTech has been built for that purpose.
“To build an autonomous vehicle is not an impossible task and something only big OEM can do. A key to the success was the availability of open-source software upon which we could build our system design,” said Raivo Sell, Senior Researcher and Program Manager of Product Development and Robotics Company at TalTech University.
The unique circumstances of the Taltech ISAUTO project are that it has now created an open-source platform with a working shuttle. This is one of the primary reasons that the Taltech project attracted the attention of the Advanced Mobility Institute a continent away at Florida Polytechnic University.
Full text at Forbes.